Pharmacists are medication specialists and can work in a variety of locations. While everyone is familiar with the retail pharmacists who check medication compatibilities, dispense medications, compound medicine, educate patients, and work with physicians and insurers, these positions only comprise about half the jobs in Pharmacy. Some pharmacists work administrative roles as managers inside insurance companies, healthcare organizations, or industries. Clinical specialty pharmacists work to manage complex patients as members of the health care team. These specialty areas include oncology, cardiology, transplant medicine, neonatology, and more. Pharmacists can also work in the drug development industry, but drug discovery is more commonly pursued through a Ph.D. in pharmaceutical sciences, pharmacology, medicinal chemistry, synthetic chemistry, and more. Pharm.D. graduates are encouraged to pursue a two-year residency to increase their clinical skills and develop a specialty; there is a separate type of residency for pharmacists who wish to work in industry.

The Pharm.D. program is four years after undergrad.

Job Market: The projected percent change in employment from 2020 to 2030. The average growth rate is -2% (Decline).

Base Salary: $128,710 per year $61.88 per hour


Prerequisites vary slightly from school to school, this list will cover the requirements at many schools. It is a good idea to make your own list of 5-6 schools and develop a spreadsheet of prerequisites.

  • Chemistry 5 semesters
  • General Biology 2 semesters
  • Genetics or Cell Biology
  • Microbiology with lab
  • Anatomy and Physiology with labs
  • Physics 2 semesters
  • Calculus
  • English 1-2 semesters
  • Statistics
  • Psychology and Sociology/Anthropology
  • Communications (like SCPP Medical Counseling Skills)

Preparation Outside the Classroom

A knowledge of the field is helpful in the application process. Working or extensively volunteering can give you an edge. Working as a pharmacy technician or assistant is extremely helpful. You may want to become certified and take the PTCE.

Pharmacy programs are looking for those with a consistent interest in the well-being of others, particularly vulnerable groups like those in poverty, asylum seekers, those with disabilities, etc.


Applications are submitted through a central applications service for 126 of the 138 schools, the PHARMCAS. Choosing schools can be tricky as some schools have stayed with the old model of 2-3 years of undergraduate courses before directly entering into their pharmacy training. Schools still on that model term the bachelor graduate applying through PharmCAS a “transfer”. In general, look for those schools which strongly recommend or require the completion of a bachelor’s degree before entry (e.g. University of Michigan, University of Illinois, Ohio State, UCSF, Minnesota, and others).

The optimal application timeline is generally from August to October.

Committee letters are not required and for most schools, three to four individual letters are required. See individual school sites for details. At this time the PCAT is the standardized test required by most schools; you will have results sent to PHARMCAS and to the individual non-PHARMCAS schools.